Jean Sibelius


Sibelius On Music and Life

Here are some famous and not-so-famous quotes by the composer, giving an idea of his views on music and musicians.

“If I could express the same thing with words as with music, I would, of course, use a verbal expression. Music is something autonomous and much richer. Music begins where the possibilities of language end. That is why I write music.”

“Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic.”

“Music is, for me, like a beautiful mosaic which God has put together. He takes all the pieces in his hand, throws them into the world, and we have to recreate the picture from the pieces.”

“No one ever erected a statue of a critic.”

“It is so difficult to mix with artists! You must choose business men to talk to, because artists only talk of money.”

“The framework of a symphony must be so strong that it forces you to follow it, regardless of the environment and circumstances.”

“Music is on a higher plane than everything else in this world.”

“I often conduct an orchestra in my sleep; my orchestras are so huge that the back desks of the violas vanish into the horizon. And everything is so wonderful.”

“Whereas most other modern composers are engaged in manufacturing cocktails of every hue and description, I offer the public pure cold water.”

“All the doctors who wanted to forbid me to smoke and to drink are dead.”

“Send me cigars. They are my food.”

“If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances.”

“Sibelius is unquestionably a leader in the front rank of symphonic composers. He has got out of the ruts worn by his predecessors far more completely than Brahms got away from Beethoven, or even Richard Strauss from Wagner. If someone would only burn Finlandia he would come to our young people as an entirely original inventor of a new art form and a new harmony technique.” —George Bernard Shaw 

“My symphonies were a terrible struggle. But now they are as they must be.”

“The thing that has pleased me most is that I have been able to reject. The greatest labor I have expended, perhaps, was on works that have never been completed.”

“Each of my seven symphonies has its own style, and their creation in every case took a lot of time. But I never talk about my own work; for the next morning I would regret having done so.”

“When I was a child and youth, life and people in Hämeenlinna formed an environment that had a stimulating effect on the mind of an impressionable young boy. Hämeenlinna was, above all, a very civilized town.”

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